The Internet has hundreds of Orlando hotel and restaurant reviews, and they’re invaluable if viewed from a distance. However, a word of warning: Take them with a grain of salt.
A college professor once called reviews a “survey of one.” If a reviewer stays at a hotel, he can report only on one person’s experience – one room, one maid, one front desk clerk, one set of sheets. From the hotel’s perspective, it’s like studying for a college final with a lot of material to memorize. But when it comes time for the exam, there’s only one question on it. They either pass it or they don’t, an “A” or a course failure.
One website recently reviewed Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. The writer had a terrible first room. He quickly requested another room, and the staff immediately and kindly moved him. The second room had nothing wrong; in fact, the reviewer had glowing praise for every element. The reviewer had no ax to grind, didn’t sound biased, and the website appears reliable.
However, the review doesn’t answer a vacationer’s key question: “Should I stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach?”
There’s no way to know if the first room was a fair reflection of the resort, the second room was more accurate, or if the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Even the reviewer admitted doubts in granting his four-star rating, which he based mainly on the speed of the staff’s response to his complaint and the quality of the second room.
The best hotels and restaurants have, occasionally, a boneheaded waiter or maid. On the flip side, the worst hotels and restaurants sometimes hire a dynamic, outgoing service person. Bad service from the former makes the hotel/restaurant appear worse than it is; good service from the latter does the opposite.
If selecting a hotel or restaurant based on Internet reviews (including ours), keep the following in mind:
• Check out a lot of reviews. Reading five reviews on five different websites paints a truer picture than one review on a single website.
• Pay attention to readers’ comments as much as blog writers’ content. Each person responding to a story is a “survey of one,” offering a more complete picture of murky human differences – the natural spectrum of needs, desires, and expectations.
• Understand the blog writers. People at each end of the spectrum tend to write comments more than people in the middle – the ones elated with something and the ones with an evil tale to tell.
• Use price to gauge problems. Or, alternately, “You get what you pay for.” Some people expect their Ford Fiesta to purr like a Porsche. A hotel/restaurant review should reflect the level of service you can reasonably expect for the price. A problem found at Disney’s Grand Floridian, for example, might not be unexpected, or even a problem, if encountered at Motel 6.
• Avoid experts unless you are one. Restaurant reviews, especially, tend to focus on the nuances of the food, the chef’s unique style, and the interior décor. True connoisseurs write these. If you’re a blue collar Joe from West Virginia, you’ll do better to garner opinions from neighbors and friends – people with generally simpatico ideas. If they love the Orlando Cracker Barrel, you probably will too.
• Don’t Google negative comments to find reviews. If you use “Caribbean Beach complaints,” for example, you’ll find only complaints. Best tactic: Google the name of the hotel/restaurant with the word “reviews” after it, as in “Orlando Holiday Inn Maingate reviews.”